Subscriber Interview: Meet Prolific Apologetics YouTuber Erik Manning PLUS Questions on Jesus’ Birth

Street Theologian
11 min readDec 21, 2023

The importance of a local church for apologists, how to get into apologetics, Erik’s story and much more!

1. Who is Erik?

2. Recent videos- Forged Epistles and Complex Issues on the Birth of Christ

3. Testify and Street Theologian Discussion

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If you want to head straight to the interview head towards the bottom of this article!

We have a special guest with us today, Erik Manning, who is one of our subscribers. We are very blessed to have him as part of our network.

Erik talks with us about how he keeps the heart and head engaged as a Christian, where to start if you find Christian apologetics scary, his journey of faith, his favourite Street Theologian articles and more!

Who is Erik?

Erik Manning is a former atheist turned Christian by the grace of God, who is a prolific blogger and YouTuber on Christian Apologetics with a primary focus on the reliability of the New Testament, the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus and dealing with doubts about miracles.

YouTube

Erik’s YouTube channel Testify has over 2.7m total video views. Moreover, Erik has a site called isjesusalive.com where he makes a case for Jesus’ resurrection.

A street theologian

In addition to loving spending time with his wife and kids, Erik is mostly self-taught in the field of apologetics, all while freelancing as a web designer.

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Speaking and writing engagements

Erik has also previously served as a Reasonable Faith Chapter Director as well as writing for prominent apologetics websites such as Cross Examined and Reasons for Jesus.

Importance of local church

Erik is committed to serving at and attending his local church regularly with his family.

Recent videos- Forged Epistles and Complex Issues on the Birth of Christ

Refuting modern sceptical views, Erik has recently published videos addressing the issue of whether or not New Testament epistles like 2 Peter, Ephesians and Colossians were forgeries.

Jesus’ Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke

Erik’s most recent videos, however, relate to the infancy narratives of Jesus in Matthew and Luke.

Key questions

Addressing issues such as:

  1. Herod’s Massacre: Did Matthew invent Herod’s massacre of infants (Matt. 2:16–18) to make Jesus seem to parallel Moses (Exodus 1:22) and Israel (eg. Hosea 11:1)?
  2. Infancy Narratives as late inventions: Were the infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke, late inventions not believed by the early Christians due to their absence from Mark and Paul’s Epistles?
  3. Mistranslation of virgin: Did Matthew invent the virgin birth based on a mistranslation of the Hebrew word, almah, in Isaiah 7:14 that could never mean virgin (note: betulah means virgin but so can almah at times according to Heiser’s survey) but could only mean young woman?
  4. Born in 4BC or 6 AD? If Jesus was born during the time of Herod the Great (Matthew 2:3; Luke 1:5) who stopped ruling in 4 BC, why does Luke apparently suggest Jesus was born during the time of Quirinius (Luke 2:2) who was not governor of Syria until 6 AD (note this would be inconsistent with Luke’s writings in Luke 1:5, 3:1–2; Acts 5:37)?
  5. Fake census? Is the census in Luke 2:1–5 an invention by Luke to ensure Jesus is born in Bethlehem to fulfill a prophecy from Micah 5:2 ( a prophecy which ironically Luke never mentions!)?

The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah

Erik astutely points out Hosea 11:1 (out of Egypt called my son), Jer. 31:15 (Rachel weeping for her children) and Isaiah 7:14 (young woman giving birth) are unlikely to be a first pick to spin a Messianic story.

They don’t even make it into Alfred Edersheim’s 456 passages in The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah which Jews at the time of Jesus believed related to the Messiah.

This is demonstrated in writings such as Targums (OT translations which included some comments on passages) and Talmud (rabbinic writings).

Links to some of Erik’s videos on these topics are included below:

Testify and Street Theologian discussion

Now to the interview…

ST:Erik, you're deep in apologetics while also a professing Christian, what helps you keep both the head and the heart engaged in your faith journey?

EM: Being part of a local church is super important.

I really believe that every Christian, even us apologists, should have a local pastor to guide and support them. And it’s great when apologists pitch in to help out the congregation in practical ways.

Personally, I volunteer as an usher, help with sound stuff, and chip in with housekeeping alongside my wife. It’s awesome because it lets me connect with everyone and grow in the community.

I don’t think apologists should ever feel like they’re too big for that.

I also make time to catch my pastor’s sermons on our church’s podcast or listen to other speakers my pastor recommends.

Reading the Scriptures every day is a big part of my routine, and I try hard to keep a grateful mindset in everything I do.

Praying for the people I’m helping is crucial. Sometimes apologetics can seem like a debate club, and it’s easy to get frustrated with all the bad arguments out there.

But praying helps me see things and people from God’s perspective. He often reminds me I used to be a hardcore atheist!

ST: What are your 5 favourite books on Christian apologetics?

EM: This one’s a toughie because there are heaps of resources out there! I weave different threads into my videos, mainly focusing on historical apologetics.

One absolute gem I recommend is William Paley’s “A View of the Evidences For Christianity.”

It’s a classic that I believe every apologist should dive into at least once a year. Surprisingly, its arguments still hold water today and cover a ton of ground.

For a solid overview of the historical case that really speaks to me, Lydia McGrew’s more recent book “Testimonies to the Truth” is a winner. I know it’s cliche maybe, but “Mere Christianity” is still a classic and is the first apologetics book that really hooked me. C.S. Lewis just nails it with his words and digs into those foundational issues that are still super relevant.

If you’re into a more Bayesian approach, Richard Swinburne’s books like “Is There a God?” and “Was Jesus God?” are fantastic.

He breaks things down in a way that’s both super accessible and seriously robust intellectually. Plus, he’s a big shot in the world of philosophy of religion.

Swinburne

ST: What frustrates you the most about how some people approach apologetics?

EM: They’re sort of stuck in the classical approach. We’ve got plenty of Christians keen on diving into arguments for God’s existence, and that’s cool.

But here’s the thing: if Jesus really rose from the dead, the probability that God exists skyrockets to a solid 1.

We’re talking about a specific God here, not just some generic concept of the divine. Now, don’t get me wrong, learning those arguments for God’s existence isn’t useless.

But it’s funny how many atheist content creators and authors seem way more into discussing the Bible than some Christians are.

We tend to think that if we throw out three reasons to believe in God and a minimalist argument for the resurrection, we’ve done our duty.

But if the Gospels turn out to be a jumbled mess, written by anonymous folks who might’ve just made things up way later after the actual events, then those vivid details like “touch me and see” lose their punch.

If the Gospels aren’t rooted in facts, how can we be sure the disciples weren’t just jumping to conclusions about Jesus rising from the dead?

We really need to dig into whether the Gospels were penned by folks close to the action and who cared about getting the facts straight. But sadly, not many folks seem eager to jump into that arena.

ST:Do you have any advice for any budding apologists or YouTubers/ bloggers in the field?

EM: Before diving into this arena, make sure you’re plugged into your local church. Stay in touch with your spiritual leaders; they should see the gifts you have for this field and ensure you’re spiritually and mentally equipped for it. Stick to what you’re best at — don’t try to be someone else.

And here’s a big one: strive to present the other side as fairly as you can.

That means immersing yourself in perspectives you might not agree with. It’s all about finding your strength, staying connected, and doing your best to understand differing viewpoints.

Also, be forgiving to yourself. You’re not gonna be able to be the jack of all trades, and you’ll make mistakes along the way and people are going to be happy to mock you over it.

Just keep a humble and willing attitude to learn as you go, and grow some thick skin.

ST:Was there a distinct moment when the penny dropped and you had a clear sense the Christian faith was tenable to hold to?

EM: No, not exactly.

Building the case for the Christian faith is more like stacking up evidence. Trusting my own spiritual experiences was a big part of what initially convinced me — I didn’t think I was deceived or deluded.

And as I faced objections and delved into both sides of the Christian argument, my faith got even stronger, especially after seeing how much scrutiny the faith could withstand and just how poor a lot of so-called scholarly arguments really were.

But there wasn’t just one big ‘wow’ moment — it was more like a series of realisations that added up over time.

ST:What do you think is most commonly misunderstood about Jesus and Christianity?

EM: I’d say the biggest misconception might be the idea that there’s no evidence or historical backing for the New Testament.

It seems like many folks treat Christianity as having no more historical evidence than religions like LDS or Islam. But in reality, there’s a substantial historical case for Christianity that often goes overlooked or misunderstood.

And sometimes, believers might not be equipped to highlight those historical distinctions compared to other faiths.

Too many Christians are either fideistic in their approach or just are inarticulate in giving evidence for their faith.

ST:What types of videos do you plan on making in the next few months?

EM: I’m pretty spontaneous with my approach — it’s all about what catches my attention and the objections people are throwing out at the time.

Right now, I’m working on a video exploring how the Talmud backs up the Gospels.

I’m also working on a short response to scholar Dan McClellan that Luke 1–2 was a late addition to the Gospel of Luke.

ST: What do you find helps reduce your risk of getting burnt out from all the great work you are doing on your site and channel (let me guess baseball will get a mention..)?

EM: To get my mind off of heavy stuff, I’m a huge fan of baseball, and I also enjoy football and hockey in the late fall and winter time. When I’m not cheering for my teams, I spend time with my kids and we dive into retro video games together.

When the weather’s nice I like to take lots of walks and I enjoy taking my younger kids to the park or library.

But you know what keeps me going? Regularly connecting with God — that’s the real secret to avoid burning out. If I’m feeling burnt out, I’m either not resting or I’m not feeding myself spiritually enough. It’s a big red flag to me that I need to reset and reconnect.

ST: Do you have any advice for Christians who find apologetics too intense and intellectual and are unsure where to start?

EM: I’d suggest kicking off with the books I mentioned earlier — they’re beginner-friendly and cover a wide range of info that should really hook them in.

I totally get the overwhelming feeling starting out. When I was in that boat, Dr. Tim McGrew, a Christian philosopher at W. Michigan, was a massive help. He sort of took me under his wing and handed me a syllabus that made a world of difference.

I thought I needed to go back to school and get a fancy degree, but with several kids and not being exactly rich that wasn’t a good option, and there’s so much information you can study on your own.

But you will need to put down your phone, or turn off the TV and pick up a book! Stick with the areas that really stick out to you.

For all my complaining that we need more people involved in historical apologetics, if theology, philosophy, or science are more your thing, then spend your time there!

ST: Which areas of apologetics do you feel need more coverage from bloggers and YouTubers?

EM: Like I hinted before, there’s a real need for more folks defending the Bible’s historical reliability.

Places like MythVision, Paulogia, and others are totally into chatting about the Bible and bringing in various scholars. I often find some of their arguments lacking and relatively easy to knock down but it takes a lot of work to do that.

(And to be clear, some of their arguments can at times be more challenging, so I’m not trying to be disparaging towards them.)

Sure, there are a few other apologists out there occasionally countering their claims, but it seems like there just aren’t enough of us doing that.

ST: We're thrilled and grateful to God to have you as part of our subscriber network at Street Theologian, do you have any favourite Street Theologian articles that really stood out to you?

EM: I really enjoyed your recent post on Gospel authorship!

Keep it up, we need more people doing what you do. Your article on gratitude was spot on.

Did Matthew, Mark, Luke and John REALLY Write the Gospels? Short Conversations

The Gratitude Myth: Affirm goodness but forget the Source?

Gratitude played a huge role for me during a tough bout of anxiety.

But you know, realising that I was thankful to a caring God made all the difference in how it affected me.

ST: Thanks for all you do Erik and for this discussion!

Subscribe to our Substack: https://streettheologian.substack.com/

Why Did Jesus Come Into The World? Our articles on the Gospels, Jesus’ divinity, death and resurrection

Quoting Ehrman: 20 Bart Ehrman quotes every NON-CHRISTIAN should know

Do we Need God? The Loss of God and the Decay of Society Under the False Gods of Sex, Status, Science and State. Street Theologian Responds to the Academy of Ideas

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Street Theologian

Theology and apologetics for those who want to get their hands dirty